Thursday, September 25, 2014
Day 76 of 100 Days of Good Karma.
It was a rainy drizzly day, and I spent it on the couch with a notebook and a pen. My phone was close by and I listened to Orange is the New Black all day.
The fatigue from chemo made me slow. I just felt sluggish and stupid all day. I was also plagued by a mental fog that I just couldn’t shake.
I had a hard time writing. I’d have a thought and then immediately lose it. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
I tried taking a nap hoping that would clear my head, but I couldn’t sleep.
My mind feels like a dull pencil and I can’t concentrate long enough to look for a sharpener. This sort of mental cloudiness is referred to as Chemo Brain.
Here’s a snapshot of what chemo brain looks like:
(I stole this list from the American Cancer Society webpage because I can’t seem to come up with my own right now. I hope they’ll forgive the plagiarism.)
• Forgetting things that they usually have no trouble recalling (memory lapses)
I don’t know if I’ve experienced this one or not. But, I wonder, how would I know if I’ve forgotten? The nature of ‘forgetting’ precludes ‘remembering’.
So I’d appreciate a heads up if I ever leave my house without pants on.
• Trouble concentrating (they can’t focus on what they’re doing, have a short attention span, may “space out”)
I have the attention span of a two year old Labrador these days. If I have a large task to work on I have to break it down into smaller tasks.
It helps to set a timer, as in I’m going to work on this story for twenty minutes. I set the timer on my phone and that’s all I do for the next twenty minutes.
I have to ignore other tasks and distractions or the first task won’t get done.
• Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events
My friend Wendy laughs at me (in the way that only your friends can laugh at you) because I garble sentences and mix up words while talking.
If I stop and think about it I can correct what I’m saying, but I have to slow down to think about what I need to say.
• Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one task (they are less able to do more than one thing at a time)
Example: I was sitting on the couch writing. I was in a groove and the pen was flying across the page. Any sort of interruption these days throws me off, so it was nice to be in a groove.
Then the phone rang. I knew if I answered it I’d never find my way back.
So I ignored the call.
I’ll call back later, I thought. Then I forgot to call back later.
• Taking longer to finish things (disorganized, slower thinking and processing)
I screwed dinner up twice, and both mistakes were ridiculous.
The first time I tried to make dinner I dumped raw ground turkey into a crock pot and smothered it with marinara sauce. I turned the crock pot on and then realized I’d never really know if the meat was done, therefore I’d never be comfortable serving it to my kids.
So I tossed it (wincing at the waste of food).
Then I tried grilled cheese sandwiches only to be defeated by the difficulty of spreading cold butter on bread. I hate the bread gets torn up and I couldn’t seem to melt the butter to the right temperature.
Finally I gave up and served microwaved meatball sandwiches.
• Trouble remembering common words (unable to find the right words to finish a sentence)
This one is the the worst. I hate the feeling of having a word on the tip of my tongue and I just can’t seem to get it out.
I know this happens all the time to people not going through chemo, but it happens to me frequently one or two days after treatment.
It’s unpleasant to think that the drugs are affecting how I think. Even writing this post is hard. Stringing together words into some sort of coherent order is a long, slow struggle.
Today’s silver lining: Maybe writing every day will keep the chemo brain manageable.
What’s your silver lining today? I love comments!